Monday 6 December 2010

What makes a great villain?

Now what does make a great villain? Wormholes, a Breakthrough, Doomsday being nigh .. ah! - how about an explanation on my blog .. please welcome the author with the mostest: Mr Stephen Tremp ...

... who, in this the first of his trilogy, Breakthrough, entices us with movie hurtling scenes, racy locations, snow storms, physics .. and wormholes (my best!) .. please sit back and enjoy the words of Stephen Tremp as my first guest ever to post here:
Stephen Tremp's book: Breakthrough - The Adventures of Chase Manhattan

Some villains are obvious from the start. In old Westerns, the bad guy wore the black hat, the good guy the white hat. Darth Vader was dressed entirely in black. Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker wore white. However, villains today are not necessarily so cut and dry. They do not even need to be people. Aliens from other planets make great villains. So do animals such as Jaws.

Jaws: Theatrical release poster (Steven Spielberg film)

Villains can take the form of concepts and ideologies such as social injustices, racism, or human trafficking. Villains can be drugs. They can be greed and lust for power, or just plain ignorance of another’s differences and making them scapegoats as in Schindler’s List.

Don’t forget about the setting, which itself can be a really nasty evil villain. I bought the movie "1408" because this is such a story. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend renting it.

1408 Theatrical Release poster of the film – based on a Stephen King short story

Generally, I’ve been taught that the villain is the obstacle that stands in the way of the protagonist. The good guy is introduced first, then the villain enters a few chapters later and rains on the protagonist’s parade or threatens the world or a small sliver of it.

However, sometimes villains are unmasked to the reader from the start. I prefer to begin a story with the bad guy. Example: In the Columbo television series the villain is first introduced to the audience performing his murderous acts. There is no Whodunit as we already know who done it. It’s just a matter of the sleuth performing detective work and solving the crime.

Other times the author waits until the end of the story to reveal the killer. Example: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes or Scooby Doo (I would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for you meddling kids).

Every episode of the original Scooby-Doo format contains a penultimate scene in which the kids unmask the ghost-of-the-week to reveal a real person in a costume. FromScooby-Doo, Where Are You! season two, episode one ("Nowhere To Hyde", September 12, 1970).

Villains needn’t be malicious or even hold anything against the protagonist. An antagonist must simply impede a story’s action towards the goal: Villain Writing Lessons from Lord Vader. Of course, if they meet and hate each other’s guts, that’s better. Find the balance. Get inside their head. Make them believable, but one who takes risks most would not ordinarily do.

Villains need a reason to act and react the way that they do. His or her actions can introduce the conflict that drives the story forward. It is then up to the antagonist to put an end to the madness and stop the villain, possibly even killing him.

More and more, audiences are demanding villains past are explained. They want to know why they are they way they are. Example: The new Freddy Krueger movie will go into far more detail of how Freddy came to be Freddy because the first movie did not go into much detail other than the mother explaining the story to her daughter.

Freddy Krueger – a ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ character

Humanizing is vital to developing a villain. Each of your characters should think like a human (even if they’re not), and react to events in very human ways, regardless how fantastical or outlandish events become. Character flaws go along with humanization. Both protagonist and antagonist need to have faults. Usually, the good guy overcomes and conquers as I explain in the post The Straight from Hel: Character Arc while the bad guy has damning faults that ultimately lead to his demise. Example: Greed or madness.

Important: Developing a great villain does not necessarily mean he only has to make life dangerous for the good guy. Make life dangerous for him, too. Who are the antagonist’s antagonists besides the good guy? You can really make things difficult for the villain as the story progresses then draws to a close. His world is closing in around him. Detectives, family and friends of victims, investigative reporters, other villains, society, his cronies and others may all want to extract justice in their own way.

“Sometimes, if you’re lucky, a villain will just come to you whole … I love when your subconscious does the work for you … you have a real, heinous person in mind, either a criminal you’ve read about who sparks such an outrage in your soul that you have to create him on paper just to destroy him the way he needs to be destroyed. Sometimes it’s a person you really know – in the novella I recently finished I took great pleasure in detailing all the banal viciousness of a producer I know and then bashing his brainless head in.” From Alexandra Sokoloff's post 'What Makes a Great Villain'.

Sir Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs

Stephen Tremp blogs at Breakthrough Blogs ..

shown here at a book signing

and is the author of NearFuture SciFi Thriller "Breakthrough"

Please check out Steve's Science for Youth tab, and his Library Blog tab

This blog, more likely its owner, is not sophisticated enough to have Tweets and Facebooks and buttons! .. but we'd love whatever you can do for Stephen!!

Thank you .. it's been great fun having you here .. and now I know a little about developing a villain for a story .. and I so look forward to your next home and away ..

Dear Mr Postman .. as you can see I really do have my first guest posting here .. and I feel so honoured to have this wonderful author .. my mother will look up at me with big eyes and say ... what? .. and how? and why? .. and all the other fun things and then she'll have one big smile for me .. ! But perhaps today .. I should say this is a villainous story?!
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Rosaria Williams said...

Thanks for visiting me! Now, I too know a bit more about capturing the soul of villains on paper. What kinds of stories do you write?

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Lake Viewer .. good to see you & you have a wonderful location - good choice of place to live!

I write posts of items that will amuse my mother - as per my brief bio on the blog - and keep her brain stimulated ..

This particular post is my first guest one from Stephen Tremp of California - who is in the process of writing a trilogy - the first one "Breakthrough" he self- published and continues to do so .. letting us know how he goes about the process .. please check out his blog: my villain/villein post is there.

Good to see you here and hopefully you'll be back for more! Enjoy today .. Hilary

T. Powell Coltrin said...

Villians. We would be lost without them. Who would we hate and fear? We love to hate the villians.

Great post.

Laura Eno said...

Great post! Thanks, Stephen and Hilary!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Teresa .. what would we do without them - as you say. In books, plays, poetry and the movies ..I agree with you .. Thanks for coming by .. enjoy the week .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Laura .. thanks for coming by .. it is a good description of various aspects of what it does take to make a villain .. if we really need to make one?! - Have a good day .. Hilary

Anonymous said...

Thanks Hilary for having me over today. Its fun to travel around Blogdom and meet new friends and see people I haven't seen in a while.

Old Kitty said...

These are great points to take into consideration when writing a villain!! Thanks so much Stephen Tremp for this insightful and very villanous take on my favourite characterstic to write!! Oh I do love me a bad guy/gal/alien/creature!!!

Thanks Hilary Melton Butcher for hosting! take care

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Steve .. thanks - this has been good for me .. I've been looking at how you all (authors) write your novels, and your characters .. so these descriptions of the various attributes that can be used - open up my eyes even more .. setting the scene, introducing the background of each character etc .. lots of useful information here ..

Thanks so much for our home and away posts - fun times .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Old Kitty .. Stephen's done a great post for us .. villains and ideas galore.

Good to see you here .. fellow Englisher - and you're only up the road in London .. Pleasure to meet you .. Hilary

Unknown said...

WOw, I'm just loving this series. Can't wait to read more of it. What a wonderful way to promote your book too. I think I might do something like this when my book gets released.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Clarissa .. it is a good one .. and Steve's had some excellent ideas in promoting his book etc

I've loved learning about his villains and his approach - new movies too .. 1408 - I'd never heard of ..

Thanks for following me .. just on my way over .. Hilary

Talli Roland said...

Thank you, Hilary and Stephen. I love villains - perhaps a bit too much! Sometimes I think I have too many villains in my books...

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Talli .. I think it's great that you can work your way round one villain, let alone at least the four you've got ..

I'm looking forward to reading The Hating Game .. cheers Hilary

Arlee Bird said...

Some good insights provided in this fine post. One of my favorite aspects of villainy is the one of setting or the forces of nature. The story is often the more heroic tale of a person or people rising above that which seems overcoming to them and in the end surviving and being winners. These are often the more uplifting stories. But well drawn human villains can be a lot of fun.

Tossing It Out

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Lee .. good to see you here .. - yes I like your idea .. nature - fire, wind, rain, storm, flood etc - but we can always have villains here too .. taking before the relief gets through .. etc

Now I shall be looking out more often for these character traits!

Thanks so much for being here and adding to the mix .. Hilary

Linda said...

Cool lesson in villains and their place in the stories. Many times they are someone you love to hate.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Linda .. Steve's done an excellent job here & the linkings .. and don't we sometimes love to hate them!

Cheers - good to see you .. Hilary

Ella said...

Wonderful, I love the flow and insight~ I think I will write using my MIL(mother in law). I think a lot of people can/could relate to this type of torment, mainly verbal torture.

Love your take on it!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Ellen aka Ella .. I love your whimsical look - appropriate for your comment! Sadly I'm sure there are a few others who'd agree with you ..

So pleased you enjoyed Steve's post .. thanks for visiting and good to meet you here! .. Hilary

Karen Lange said...

Wonderful post! Thank you, Hilary and Stephen, for sharing this great series. So much food for thought, appreciate it very much. :)
Have a good week,

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Karen .. Queen of your blog! You started this great round .. which is fun .. I'm so pleased I can be a part of it .. great learning curve .. lovely seeing you here .. have a great week .. Hilary

Golden Eagle said...

Fascinating post on villains!

Thanks, Stephen and Hilary!

Southpaw said...

Good point about people wanting to know more about what made the villain a villain.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Golden Eagle .. good to meet you here .. and so pleased to hear that you found Steve's words fascinating .. through these tours we are having the opportunity to learn a lot about villains.

Great - thanks for being here .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Holly .. good to see you .. and as you say I'm enjoying learning about what made a villain a villain .. and remembering the natural elements too .. enjoy today .. Hilary

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comment today on my post!

What awesome information about villains. They certainly make life on planet earth most interesting!!
Ann Best, Long Journey Home

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Ann .. that's a pleasure ... you and your daughter Jen are on an amazing journey .. with thoughts.

Steve has done a brilliant job here .. but all the comments are adding more information regarding villains.. Thanks so much for being here .. Hilary

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I applaud Stephen for creating a post that features both Jaws and Scooby Doo. That's not easy to do!

Anonymous said...

Hilary, I didn't know I was your first guest blogger. I'm honored. Aren't these Home and Away series fun ... great way to meet knew people too.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Alex .. you're right .. I was looking for pictures & I thought .. no these two have to go in .. per Steve's post!

Great to see you and for adding a bit of wit! Love that .. thanks - Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Steve ... oh yea! I just never dared ask .. how do you fit in to this eclecticism? Well you did .. Jaws, Hannibal Lechter, 1408 - now that sounds ? interesting!, and Scooby Doo .. and you 've given me a thought for the future .. with a slightly different twist .. we'll see!

Your suggestion of the Home and Away for all of us - makes sense .. a good mix across the blogosphere .. thanks - delighted to have you as my first!! Cheers Hilary

Ella said...

Nice to meet you; I enjoyed my visit, decided to follow you~

Julie Musil said...

The Hannibal picture gave me the chills! Thanks for the great information.

N. R. Williams said...

Villains are interesting. Secondary villains who stand in the way of the villain and hero are also necessary and I'm glad you mentioned that.
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Mason Canyon said...

Hilary, enjoyed your first guest blogger. Great topic.

Stephen, a villain that a reader loves to hate makes for the most interesting reading. Wonderful series.

Thoughts in Progress

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Ella .. thank you - delighted to see you here .. and so pleased that you enjoyed your visit and that you're following me. I will definitely see you - enjoy today .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Nancy .. thanks - Steve's written a great post here on various sorts & now you're bringing up another aspect the the 'tripper upper villain' .. who thwarts all the best laid plans.

Good to see you here - and thanks for following me .. have a good day .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Mason .. thank you - Steve's been an excellent choice with a great topic .. and we do seem to love villains too .. thanks for coming by ..Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Julie .. yes - the Hannibal Lechter photo is very good isn't it .. very threatening .. I never saw the film - because I was too frightened!! Villains do that to me .. fun ones ok .. but dark and particularly nasty ones .. no thank you!! Steve did do a good post here ..

Lovely to meet you and thanks for following .. Hilary

Anonymous said...

Thanks Hilary for having me over today. Met some new people and had a lot of fun. And thanks everyone for stopping by! This is a great way to cap off the year.

TALON said...

Great post, Hilary. Gave me the chills. I guess we need the bad to make the good much sweeter.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Steve .. thanks - it's a pleasure .. and always good to get a few extra faces around .. but I'm loving learning about Villains - also your promotional aspects of your book will be helpful to many.

As you say the count down to the end of 2010 .. a high note to continue on into 2011 .. Delighted we could do the Home and Away .. cheers for now .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Talon .. Steve's post .. I just added in one or two extra pics! I like photos .. but can't take them like you do .. I think you're right - the good will be very sweet.

Enjoy the week and thanks for coming by .. Hilary

Patricia said...

Great post and I will follow through and check out Stephen's work sites - great job here.

I always keep in mind my oldest daughter's first villainous encounter. She was 3 and her friend's birthday was centered around seeing the movie Bambi. The fire kills Bambi's mother - it was so traumatic to my child that she did not go to another movie until she was in the double digits (she loves movies now and animation is her fun art - IT Girl)

I always keep this in mind because when I was doing counseling it assisted me in finding the "pain" and the source of this "pain" a child might be experiencing - even adults The villain in their is always amazing to me how many people imitate movie pain into their real life.
I am actually a feel good movie buff - there are so many bumps in the road of life, I can just hear of it now and move on

Glad to hear of your mum's smile and responses.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Patricia .. this is a good post isn't it! See you over at his blog soon ..

oh what 'does us in' as kids .. I used to hate balloons and bangs - fireworks .. I can understand IT girl's fright .. I don't like horror movies now!!! Won't go to them!

Good reference about the Counselling aspect .. we need to keep an open mind to find out where their pain has come from and why ..

I'm like you - I keep the bad stuff out ..

Thankfully Mum is always pleased to see me and I get the smiles to go with it .. sometimes quiet ones as today .. but other times - the big ones! Cheers .. lovely seeing you here .. Hilary

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Wonderful post, Stephen and Hilary! You two make quite the team. :)

Have a lovely rest of the week, Hilary. I hope you and your Mum are keeping warm.

Anonymous said...

Hilary, great post on villians. Looks like this is definitely the latest hot topic from all the comments.

Jemi Fraser said...

I love a good villain! I like both when the author keeps the identity secret and when we know who it is from the start! :)

Soul Dipper said...

What a post, Hilary! I'm going to keep an eye on you! :) I can just see you following in Stephen's footsteps.

This is a whole postful of encouragement!

Great sharing, Hilary.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sharon .. - thank you so much .. it's been a good Home and Away! We're warming up a little! and we're very lucky we are in the south .. thanks -Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Susanne - thanks Steve has done an excellent job here .. and we're all learning from the different approaches .. enjoy today - Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Jemi .. you're so right a good villain is secretive, yet apparent .. I think I just read and devour .. but from now on I'll be wondering who is doing it! Good to see you - Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Amy .. thank you! but this is all Steve's work .. I just added some of the pretty bits! There's certainly more aspects to villains than I'd realised!!

Really grateful for the kind encouraging words ... love them .. and so pleased you enjoyed it all - have a good rest of the week .. Hilary

Jannie Funster said...

Freddy Krueger is not a very good-looking bloke, is he? To my eye anyway.

Love the villaneous cultural eclecticism here. Fun how this includes Hannibal and the potential Scooby-Do villians too. And that Jaws shark stil has me scared to swim all these years later.

I try not to write any villians in my songs, but if that ever changes, I'll be back to this like a shot for reminders.

And how lovely to have a book-signing, well deserved for all Stephen's excellent work on Breakthrough!

How great you both connected and are sharing this with us.

xoxo to Hilree.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Jannie .. no -he's not is he! Steve had put a small one in .. I just preferred this rather gruesome picture .. have to have my pictures!

I just don't do villainous movies .. so actually mostly don't know what people are talking about - I've seen enough from the promotional scenes ..

Stephen .. set a lot of his marketing up himself .. and it's all on his blog - he went through his recent process from July this year .. so with Talli .. good mix of learning - let alone all the other authors.

We'll have to do the same for you and your CDs .. and I've enjoyed the guest posting .. and have some thoughts for next year ..

Enjoy the rest of the week - & happy track making tomorrow evening .. will be dreaming of you!! Probably not! .. cheers and xoxo to BB et al at Funsterland .. and you, Jannie, ..... Hilree!

Anonymous said...

Wow! This is the bog that keeps on giving. Just when I think its over there are lots more comments. Thanks again everyone for stopping by. You really know how to make a guest blogger feel welcome!

Helen Ginger said...

Villains are often the best part of a story. You gotta have a hero that's equal to the villain, though. Thanks for the post, Stephen.

Vered said...

This brings back memories! My younger brother used to love horror films and convinced me to watch a few with him. We watched all ‘Nightmare on Elm Street' sequences. It was SO HARD for me. I would have nightmares for weeks!

I haven't seen a horror film in 20 years at least, and I don't miss the genre!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Steve .. yes WOW .. we're still going & you missed a couple of new ones!! I'm always amazed and so chuffed when everyone comes over ..

Villains as subjects always draw us in somehow .. and you've highlighted a few really 'nasty' ones .. in various genres.

It's been a pleasure having you here .. and we'll 'play it again Sam' sometime?! Cheers Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Helen .. lovely having you come over .. villains and heroes .. there still has to be that balance - the scales need to be tipped somewhere ..

Thanks Helen .. it's been great having Stephen here .. enjoy Friday! Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Vered .. wonderful to see you here .. oh did you actually sit and watch .. and then suffer nightmares .. I think I would have done too. So pleased - I managed to avoid most of the horror stories and films growing up!

Like you .. I don't do horror movies or films .. and I can quite believe your comment .. cheers & enjoy the weekend .. Hilary

J.D. Meier said...

Now I want to see 1408.

I'm glad you brought in Scooby Doo.

Whenever I think villain, I think Oil Can Harry. He's got that classic villain look.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi JD .. yes, when I read Steve's guest post I thought 1408 look interesting .. if I can get past the horror of it - I may well do so at some stage: the name will stick anyway.

Again - Steve's example .. using Scooby Doo ..

I had to look up Oil Can Harry .. and I see it's TerryToons .. he sounds greasy and slippery just from his name ..

Thanks .. JD .. good thoughts - Hilary

Theresa Milstein said...

Bad guys are great to read and write, but sometimes difficult to watch (Freddy Kruger is a good example). I agree it's important to think of the type of antagonist we're writing and when the antagonist is revealed. Fun different examples.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Theresa .. thanks .. Stephen's post is very good especially with his examples .. Freddy Kruger is pretty awful!

Novel writing has so many aspects .. I'm learning! & which films I should be watching!! Oh well ..lots to keep me amused in the future .. cheers Hilary

Liara Covert said...

Nothing exists unless you choose to conjure it up to evoke a particular emotion and lesson.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Liara .. too true and we certainly can conjure villains up .. both in our writings and in our minds ..

Thanks - good points .. hope this week goes well .. Hilary